Double-incision mini-invasive technique for BTB harvesting: its superiority in reducing anterior knee pain following ACL reconstruction

F Gaudot, J-B Leymarie, O Drain, P Boisrenoult, O Charrois, P Beaufils
Orthopaedics & Traumatology, Surgery & Research: OTSR 2009, 95 (1): 28-35

BACKGROUND: Arthroscopically-assisted ACL-reconstructions are currently reliable, reproducible and thoroughly used methods. Residual anterior knee symptoms however, especially after patellar-BTB graft use, are not uncommon occurrences following ACL-reconstructions, and can downgrade patient's satisfaction. Anterior knee pain contributing factors are numerous and include injury to the saphenous nerve infrapatellar branches (SNIB) and/or histologic changes at the harvest site. We thus preferably suggest a double-incision minimal approach for the patellar transplant harvesting stage in order to prevent injury to the SNIB.

HYPOTHESIS: This technical variation decreases the risk of injury to the saphenous nerve infrapatellar branches while preserving the peritenon.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective controlled trial.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Two groups were alternatively constituted in 2004: ligament reconstructions were either performed via a two-incisions approach during the first 2004 semester or via a single-incision approach during the second 2004 semester. Pain, even at a mild level, was evaluated. Patients were assessed using objective pain provocative tests and sensory assessment, a Lille University femoropattelar score, the IKDC Knee evaluation, the SF36 quality of life score in combination with radiographic and ultrasonographic investigations.

RESULTS: Forty patients were reviewed at a mean 33 months follow-up delay: 21 of these had a double-incision approach and 19 had a single-incision approach. Four patients from the double-incision sub-group and 11 from the single-incision sub-group reported anterior knee pain (p<0.01). The knee-walking test came out normal in 11 patients from the double-incision sub-group and in three from the single-incision sub-group (p<0.02). The Lille University patello-femoral score was 91/100, demonstrating no significant difference. At follow-up, sensory disorders were observed in 17 patients from the single-incision sub-group and in nine from the double-incision sub-group (p<0.002). However, no statistical correlation could be established between anterior knee pains and sensorial disturbances. SF36 and IKDC objective and subjective scores were similar in both groups. Ultrasonographic findings revealed a lesser degree of patellar tendon thickening in the double-incision sub-group. However, no statistically significant differences definitely emerged between the two groups (p=0.50).

DISCUSSION: The results of this study strongly support our main hypothesis: The double-incision approach significantly reduces the mid-term incidence of anterior knee pains after ACL-reconstructions. Additionally, this technical variation markedly decreased the occurrence of sensory disorders and the extent of hypoesthesia. We thus advocate the use of a double-incision graft harvesting technique in ACL-reconstructions using a patellar-bone-tendon-bone transplant.

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